When I pick up the kids from school, I want to hear all about their day. A shower of stories, names, anecdotes comes my way, voices overlapping. I know who did what on the weekend, and who they played with the most. Now there’s always a bit of a blank stare when I ask the trickiest of questions: What did you have for lunch?
“I can’t remember,” my eldest says, “it was too long ago.” But he remembers that he asked Santa Claus for a foosball table a year ago and Santa didn’t deliver.
Now I noticed their memory works much better when they actually make food in school. They remember the whole process – the way they had to handle the ingredients, how long they had to wait until it was ready, who reacted with a funny face (or loud comment) when they all had to taste the food. And they always ask if we can make the same at home.
So this week’s challenge involves food. I’ve included plenty of options so hopefully you will find one that will suit your comfort level.
I want you to let your child choose one thing they want to prepare with you (main course, dessert, snack, anything they like). If it makes life easier for you, pick two or three options and present them to your child. Choose something manageable – don’t let the process take your sanity away, or leave you with hours of cleaning and huffing and puffing; that would defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Your child can start off easy by listing the ingredients, then (depending on their age), they can write the instructions to prepare the food.
Finally, ask them to write down why they chose this food, how easy or hard it was to prepare, and how it tasted. Would they do anything different next time? Let them be a food critic for a day. Or a food appreciator, if the word critic sounds too negative for you. These are your non-fiction options.
Is there someone they’d like to share this recipe or the actual food with? Send it over and see what happens! Check for allergies and use this as a learning opportunity.
American therapist Laura Meemken, co-founder and CEO of All Clean Food (an organic, clean-ingredient food brand), explains,
“By children being involved in the preparation, and involving their senses (smell, touch, etc.) in the process, they are more emotionally connected to the experience AND more likely to appreciate the food. Making things with their own hands and seeing (and tasting) the result builds self-confidence, even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.”
There are many benefits to trying this out. However, if the thought of cooking with children makes your shoulders so tense you can break a brick on them, you can tweak this exercise. Use food that you already made or bought, or maybe your child can cook in someone else’s kitchen – a grandparent, a neighbour. Or invite a friend over and do this as a group cooking + writing exercise. Do what works for you. After all, I won’t be there to clean up the mess.
Those who favor fiction can write a story where the character is supposed to make this particular dish for an important event (birthday party, bake sale, wedding). As always, something goes WRONG. Did you forget one of the ingredients? Used flowers instead of flour? Your brother ate it before the guests arrived?
If you want a refresher on what makes a good story and why something always goes wrong in fiction, you can read last week’s post on Parts of a Story & Planning.
I can’t wait to see what you guys made!
Many thanks to Laura Meemken for her insight. Laura is also the founder of Your Green Therapist, providing free mental wellness resources to thrive. You can connect with her here: